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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Arizona

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Former Bank Teller Sentenced To 49.5 Years Prison For “inside Job” Bank Robberies

            PHOENIX – On Sept. 10, 2014, Joel Leon Thomas, Jr., 24, of El Mirage, Ariz., was sentenced by Judge David G. Campbell to 49.5 years in federal prison for masterminding three bank robberies in Peoria, Surprise, and Sun City from January - February 2012.   In March 2014, a federal jury found Thomas guilty of three counts of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, two counts of aid and abet armed bank robbery, one count of aid and abet bank robbery, and two counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

            The evidence at trial showed that Thomas, a bank teller at the time of the robberies, provided inside information to his co-conspirators about bank security measures and bank layouts to craft plans to rob three banks in January – February 2012.  The conspiracy targeted banksThomas worked at in the Surprise, Sun City, and Peoria areas.  Thomas orchestrated two bank robberies at gunpoint, and in one of those robberies, he posed as a victim bank teller as he loaded $246,000 from the vault into a duffel bag for the armed gunman, his friend. In a third bank robbery, the conspiracy recruited two homeless men to commit a “note job” where they demanded money from a victim bank teller inside a busy grocery store and turned over the money to Thomas and other conspirators.  After obtaining search warrants, police seized approximately $150,000 in stolen bank money, firearms, ammunition, bank robbery demand notes, and hand-drawn diagrams of the banks from the residences and cars of Thomas and others charged in the conspiracy.  Five others were charged and pleaded guilty in the conspiracy. 

            The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the FBI’s Bank Robbery Task Force, the Peoria Police Department, the Surprise Police Department, and the Tempe Police Department.  The prosecution was handled by Jennifer E. Green and Tracy Van Buskirk, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.

CASE NUMBER:                  CR-12-00523-002-PHX-DGC
RELEASE NUMBER:           2014-050_Thomas

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Updated January 7, 2015